Italians Affirm 'Values' in Fertility Law Vote

A referendum to do away with Europe's strictest fertility laws failed on Monday in Italy due to low turnout at the polls. The Roman Catholic Church had urged Italians to boycott the election.

The 2004 law bans egg and sperm donations, embryo research and freezing, and allows only three eggs per test tube fertilization. Bishops had urged parishioners to avoid voting, in order to leave the referendum below the 50 percent turnout needed to make the quorum. Only 26 percent voted.

"Side by side with the Church , we have succeeded in mobilising citizens and making them feel represented," said Riccardo Pedrizzi, a conservative leaning senator, according to Reuters. "This is the victory of an Italy that believes in traditional values."

This was the first time Pope Benedict XVI had become involved in Italian politics since his election in April. He supported the bishops leading the boycott and the results were widely seen as a test of the Catholic Church's influence in an increasingly secular Europe.

According to a survey of 500 people by Sky Italia television, 65 percent of non-voters did so on moral grounds, while 35 percent did not vote out of apathy, according to Agence France Presse.

Voting "yes" on easing fertility restrictions would have done away with a reference to the embryo as a full human being and would have authorized medical research on them as well.

Supporters of the referendum said they would modify the measure and attempt to pass it again. They say that the current statute endangers women's lives, according to AFP.

The government's introduction of the bill in parliament, rankled many, including supporters of the national government.

Two top members of the influential conservative National Alliance, the second biggest party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, quit their leadership posts to protest against the party's founder.